Mistakes Were Made (by all of us)

Sandra Steingard, MD
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In their new book, Psychiatry Under the Influence, Robert Whitaker and Lisa Cosgrove detail the ways in which economies of influence lead institutions to act in ways antithetical to their stated mission. They use this overarching framework to examine the actions of the America Psychiatric Association and academic psychiatry. Their convincing argument is that the actions of the institutions strayed towards the protections of the institutions and organizations at the cost of their stated mission to further the understanding of psychiatric disorders and improve treatment.

But institutions are made up of individuals and the authors wonder how well-intentioned individuals could have been led to act in this way. Their argument is that in most instances this was not done out of a conscious attempt to deceive but out of a kind of self-deception. They rely in this section of their book on the work of cognitive psychologists and they specifically cite the work of Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson who summarize their own work and that of others in the book, Mistakes Were Made (but not by me).

Psychiatry Under the Influence is primarily concerned with modern America psychiatry beginning with the publication of the DSM III in 1980. I started medical school in 1977 and my interest in psychiatry began early. It was psychoanalytic thinking that initially drew me in but over time I was drawn more towards the study and treatment of those who experience psychosis. I left the academic world as the newer drugs were being introduced in the early 1990’s and I worked in a community mental health center during the era when it was not uncommon for drug reps to drop by on a regular basis touting their newest products.

So this history of psychiatry detailed in Psychiatry Under the Influence is my era and its twists and turns are the twists and turns of my own career. I wonder how I could have held tightly on to beliefs that I now see as suspect and I wonder how and if I can avoid this going forward.  So after finishing Psychiatry Under the Influence, the next book I picked up was Mistakes Were Made.

The authors focus on the concept of cognitive dissonance “a state of tension that occurs whenever a person holds two cognitions (ideas, attitudes, beliefs, opinions) that are psychologically inconsistent.” They describe self-justification as the rationalizations one constructs to resolve and mitigate these inconsistencies. As applied to the form of psychiatric behavior that is most criticized on MIA, for example, it helps us understand why most psychiatrists ignored their conflicts of interests for so many years. If a psychiatrist has a self-perception as being an intelligent and rational person, then he might not think himself capable of being influenced by advertisement. He might think he is able to distinguish between marketing and science and therefore able to go to a drug company sponsored symposium – or even more important presenting a talk at one of these symposia – and not be influenced in an inappropriate way.

Even when confronted with data suggesting the opposite is true – doctors in general will prescribe more of a drug after attending that manufacturer’s sponsored talk – most of us think of ourselves as impervious to these pressures (although we are likely to be concerned about our colleagues’ behavior). I have wondered whether there may be something about medical training that leads us to be more rather than less vulnerable to these kinds of influences. It is hard to get into medical school and many of us who are accepted get there after years of high academic achievement. It is understandable that by this point we would have a reasonable sense of ourselves as intelligent people. However, medical training although based on science is not a scientific activity.

There is so much to learn that we mostly just need to accept that those who are teaching us have evaluated the data fairly. The act of completing medical school is much more an act of memorizing massive amounts of data and assimilating to a medical culture than of applying the scientific method of developing hypotheses and testing them. If it were otherwise, we would be in medical school until we were ready to retire! When we finish, we are asked to make multiple decisions daily about people’s treatment.

We need to act quickly and decisively. We need a template that we can trust and we need to rapidly build up trust in our own judgment. To use the framework of cognitive dissonance, it would be too uncomfortable – probably immobilizing- to acknowledge at every moment how much we do not know. So we do the best we can. The best among us, hold on to that uncertainty with grace. In my opinion, Atul Gawande seems to capture this spirit in his writings. But others seem to overstate the knowledge base and, in this context, Jeffrey Lieberman comes to mind.

In chapter 10 of Psychiatry Under the Influence, Whitaker and Cosgrove use the model of cognitive dissonance to examine the behavior of many of psychiatry’s most influential leaders over the past 20 to 30 years. So it was interesting for me to read that while Tavris and Aronson also had a chapter focusing on psychiatry (and psychology), they did not discuss the DSM or the marketing of drugs but rather the era of the so-called recovered memory movement that swept the US in the 1980’s.

During this time, there was a belief that since people who had been abused as children were often noted to suffer as adults with a variety of problems such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, that others who came to treatment with those same symptoms might have also experienced abuse even if they did not recall this. They identify this as a logical fallacy.  Using hypnosis and other techniques, many people did recall such memories. Over time, recollections of more fantastic proportions were recalled – satanic cults and ritualistic abuse, for example – and parents were charged with crimes and convicted on this basis alone. Families were torn apart.

In light of this, researchers began to systematically study memory. The notion of recovered memory came from the psychoanalytic literature of repression. But people who studied memory had not found that memories are stored intact, perfectly preserved without distortion. In fact, memory is fungible. Not only that, memories can be created. In the Tavris and Aronson book, they wonder not about psychiatrists who may hold on to ideas of the benefits of drug in the face of emerging data but about psychiatrists (and many others) who hold on to their belief about memory in the face of emerging data that challenges these ideas.

Why do I bring this up here and now? I think a cautionary tale is warranted. To the extent that a person who holds a privileged position can understand the plight of those who hold less power, I can at least say I understand why so many people are angry at psychiatry as an organization and as embodied by individuals. But I continue to think this is a field – and in this I include us all:  other professionals, family members, those with lived experience – of great uncertainty. We can do harm in a number of ways and we may disagree on many points but perhaps certainty is the one thing we can collectively hold as suspect.

Concepts such as cognitive dissonance are not concepts that are applied by experts and used to undermine the credibility of one class of humans, but is a comment on the vulnerability of human thought in general. I am as vulnerable as anyone else. Even as I write this I worry about alienating people who I have come to consider allies. I find myself holding back on criticisms of people I like or know more than on people who stand in as more distant icons. It is easier to write a sentence critical of Jeffrey Lieberman than of my friends and closer allies.

But I will write this: I do not think any history of American psychiatry is complete without a full understanding of the role of psychoanalytic thinking. Psychoanalysts dominated the profession in the US for about 30 years and I agree with Tavris and Aronson that there were elements of the psychoanalytic structure that made the recovered memory era possible. This time is an important one on so many levels. People were harmed – mistakes were made – and not being able to speak up sooner and call out colleagues who seemed to have gone astray was a part of that story.

We continue to be extremely concerned about the aftermaths of trauma and child abuse and I understand that some people’s memories are discounted. But discounting memories is not the same as helping to create them. And acknowledging the faulty nature of memory is not the same as dismissing a person completely. Understanding what left the professions involved so vulnerable to this kind of problem is as important as understanding the impacts of the pharmaceutical industry on the practice of medicine.

But this worry goes well beyond the concept of recovered memory. We all experience confirmation bias- the tendency to hold on to ideas that confirm our world view and discount those that do not. Tavris and Aronson write about the “closed loop” of psychotherapy – where any idea or behavior that emerges within the treatment can be justified within the guiding paradigm of the treatment. If someone does well in the treatment, then the intervention is proved to be successful. If they do not improve, there is often a way to justify this in the context of the person’s own psychology.

Never mind that most people improve without treatment or that most of our treatments are just not all that effective.  There are many remarkable and innovative initiatives being pursued around the world. This is exciting. But there is a danger of selection bias – the people who seek them out may be different from those who walk through (or are dragged) through the doors of a more typical clinic.  But then there are the naysayers who will dismiss anything that is not evidenced based.

There is much to be learned but we need to understand them in a critical – which does not mean dismissive – way.  What do we do when we want to promulgate a way of working or way of being that is harder to study within the paradigm of modern clinical research? Dismissing it entirely does not seem to be a valid option but we need to somehow remain open to critical discourse.

Perhaps some might conclude this is more of a personal than a general problem. After all, I admit to my own mistakes as I have zigged and zagged in trying to make sense of my own world and the experience of those who come to me for help. As I move now to attain a deeper understanding of humanistic and holistic approaches to helping people, I feel torn between diving in and remaining self-critical.  But I suggest that we all need to monitor our own tendency for self-justification. Open, critical – respectful – discourse is of utmost importance because we need to rely on others to help us examine our own blind spots.

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105 COMMENTS

  1. Humility, tolerating uncertainty, remembering all the ways researchers and all of us have lost our way in the past…these are all critically important as we move forward. Thank you for reminding us that we all have blind spots and can easily fall toward selective attention and interpretation. I think honest, critical, scientific research and dialogue will keep us on track…thank you for your reflections…I believe that we all have blind spots and “it takes a (scientific and courageous) village.”

  2. Thank you for the community service of seeking to improve the social welfare of the community.

    Your article is excellent; it is difficult to understand personal prejudices and it does “take a village.”

    I have been working without criticism for a long time and seek feedback of my natural science theory of human psychology. I identify four scientific principles that derail psychology/psychiatry theory; solving these scientific failings explains human psychology including mental distress (emotional suffering). I would greatly appreciate any feedback; my theory is published at NaturalPsychology.org.

    Best wishes, Steve

  3. Hi Sandy-thanks for the post. Carl Tavris has been around for a long time. I think she began her career at Psychology Today. I show my class a video of Carol Tavris interviewing Beth Loftus. Beth is the memory researcher who showed that one can implant whole episodes of false memories. Beth also showed that eye witness testimony is very unreliable and the words the police use right after an event was witnessed can distort what people believe they saw.

    Carol Tavris also has written a book on anger. She has questioned whether expressing one’s emotions is always a good idea. The psychoanalytic notion that trauma needs to be processed was also a topic for evaluation for a number of social psychologists including me. (I’ve published three papers on this topic.)

    In terms of cognitive dissonance, I think it’s easier to question deeply held convictions if one has a alternative. My mentor, Bob Cialdini, is famous in many circles for his book Influence. What’s useful clinically is the social psychology research on self perception: people behave consistently with the concepts they have of themselves. Using cognitive dissonance, if a clinician gets the client to recall memories of strength, then the client will act consistent with these memories.

  4. Hi Sandra,

    A wonderful piece! It certainly supports the view that there is good psychiatry, but that good psychiatrists are always questioning their views and are aware of the fragilities in our field. I think what some people fail to appreciate, and part of what makes many psychiatrists limited in their ability to help people, is that we as psychiatrists live in doubt every moment of our professional lives. We go on vacation, or are away for just a weekend, and we never know what tragedy may await us when we return, and whether perhaps we missed something or said something not quite empathic enough. We are never sure of our theories or our treatments. We can’t predict with any accuracy the value of our work with any individual. We can’t know with any certainty how much of the whole story our patients are telling us, or whether their perceptions match the perceptions of those around them. We work largely in the dark, often grasping at straws, and then, as you point out, find ways of feeling more secure with our perceptions. Some psychiatrists cling tightly to certain theories, techniques or flow-chart psychiatry. Some of us understand that whatever uncertainty we live with is nothing compared to he emotional uncertainty that many of our patients live with every moment of their lives. This understanding leaves one with more empathy for those we treat, and more incentive to always explore and question. We all need reminders that working to improve people’s lives is a worthwhile endeavour, but that we can never be complacent in our knowledge.

    • Norman, thanks so much for this comment. It perfectly describes my life as a parent of a mentally ill young man. Always in doubt, grasping at straws, never knowing if tragedy awaits us. Years of wondering what we can do, what might work. Knowing that the hell we live in is nothing compared to the hell that my son is living in.

      You sound like a wonderful psychiatrist. The ones I have met are more like Jeffrey Lieberman, quite certain that my son would be fine if he would just try one more drug cocktail.

      Thanks to all the professionals who do research and post here, your commitment gives me the strength to continue.

  5. Thoughtful and interesting piece, Sandy, thanks for sharing more of your own journey and experience. This paragraph really popped out at me:

    “We continue to be extremely concerned about the aftermaths of trauma and child abuse and I understand that some people’s memories are discounted. But discounting memories is not the same as helping to create them. And acknowledging the faulty nature of memory is not the same as dismissing a person completely. Understanding what left the professions involved so vulnerable to this kind of problem is as important as understanding the impacts of the pharmaceutical industry on the practice of medicine.”

    I actually believe that questioning a person’s memory of their trauma is traumatic in and of itself, and dismissive enough to matter a great deal in what a person believes about themselves, and how that makes them feel. It can be rather infuriating and literally crazy-making to be questioned that way. I think that’s a normal reaction to not being heard in this manner when making one’s self that vulnerable to share feelings and memories around an unresolved trauma. To me, that’s an example of being terribly unsafe.

    Some people have shaky memories and some have photographic memories, I’ve known people in both categories. Not an issue of ego or value judgment, just a fact for some, neither here nor there. But I say this because I don’t think that ‘faulty memory’ is universal.

    Some people have excellent memories and can remember details because they tend to travel life in present time, not distracted by a plethora of thoughts. Living in the moment leaves a much stronger imprint of events, because we are taking it in integrally in that moment, being present, on more than just a visual or audio level, but on a felt sense, emotional and cellular level, too–more information in the moment by moment snapshots are absorbed and processed.

    People who are caught up in their thoughts perpetually (not everyone is) tend to not remember things as well because they are not as present in the moment. I think that makes a difference in our ability to recall details and events, as well as how we felt at the time of the experience. They remember their thoughts more than what happened outside of them, which are filters to the reality at hand, which I feel lead to distorted projections. That’s how I see it anyway.

    I don’t discount it as a reality, however, because it is still creative. Whether the reality we perceive is pure or filtered through our own limited beliefs, it is still the reality we project and experience, and that’s what makes us diverse human being, in every respect. It’s all valid.

    One person’s reality will not necessarily match that of another, simply through perception. There may be overlap and perhaps sometimes there is not. That’s diversity. Culture, beliefs, location, era, age, sibs or no sibs, what books we’ve read, etc–all of these and so much more will factor in to how we project and experience reality. And, this can morph over time, we’re not stuck with any imprint. We are flexible and neuro-plastic. We can transform in many ways, that’s our creative nature, and the fun of life.

    Regarding childhood trauma and abuse, often it is subtle and insidious via toxic dynamics that are enabled and accepted, so as to not rattle the cage of whomever is in power and fear-mongering–a system that teaches that if you go against the grain, there will be negative consequences. Not just fear-instilling, but also severely guilting and emotionally burdening (“look what you’ve done to your mother!”).

    Over the years, while developing in every way, during our most vulnerable and impressionable time, an enabling system of these chronic messages do take their toll on our hearts, psyche and spirit, not to mention our self-perception. It’s easy for a kid to feel badly about themselves if the adults around them are not actively supporting them in a way that is sound and reasonable. And, the example of the adult is what matter most. Are they walking their talk? Or saying one thing and doing another.

    We teach by example, so if our example contradicts our directives, that creates only confusion, fairly certain to become a diagnosis eventually for some, and other consequences of having internalized such toxic family dynamics and relationships. Addressing this is powerful and profound feelings, but unfortunately, the dynamics can so easily repeat in psychotherapy, and are reported to quite a bit, by survivors, myself included. That’s when things really started spiraling down in a way not necessarily related to medication, but simply because of the unwitting repetition of an insidiously traumatic relationship.

    Parenting is the hardest job in the world, but there are do’s and don’ts that have not been followed, and like I say, this adds up. This can be remedied, when people make an intention take responsibility for their own experience and practice authority over their lives.

    How this childhood trauma often repeats in psychotherapeutic settings is via gaslighing* and double-binding**. I feel a lot of family dynamics revolve around these standard operational practices. In some cases, no doubt it is unconscious because it is what we have learned and repeated from familiarity, and I feel it’s prevalent now, which is why people are looking to get off the grid, it’s just nuts trying to communicate these days, for so many reasons, not the least of which is that so much is done technologically, which has shifted the quality of communication tremendously.

    Although I feel sometimes, we fall prey to those who like to disempower others, as evidence of their own power, which I realize is sinister, but I think it’s reality. I don’t think it’s a secret any longer how control is garnered by confusing others, all those smoke and mirrors. That’s certainly coming to light all over the place these days, as we search for a better truth than that by which our world operates these days.

    *https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting

    **https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_bind

    I appreciate what you put forth, here, allowing me to get more clarity around my own experience. Family and social dynamics are my focus as a healer and teacher, and as an artist, because I think this is where the evidence of our screw up is most clear, at least to me it is.

    Always so interesting to find even more meaning to our experience, in a way that we can contribute to helping to create much-needed social change. From the mud, springs the Lotus.

      • I agree, that quote from Sandy definitely touched close to home in my case, I discuss it further below.

        “People who are caught up in their thoughts perpetually (not everyone is) tend to not remember things as well because they are not as present in the moment.” I just want to mention that putting people on the neuroleptics can make them unable to live in the present moment, remember things while on the drugs, because the neuroleptics can cause a person to get caught up in their thoughts / or, in my case, the psychotomimetic voices that resulted from being on the neuroleptics.

        And my entire experience with the psychiatric industry was about being put into a double bind by some child molesters and their therapist friend, and then being gas lighted. And since the DSM has been confessed to be “lacking in validity,” doesn’t that basically mean all psychiatric services at this point are basically nothing more than gas lighting people? “… a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.[1][2] Instances may range simply from the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, up to the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim.” This perfectly describes my experience with the psychiatric industry at least – and it is “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.”

  6. I do agree with madincanada’s comment, “Thanks to all the professionals who do research and post here.” I, too, am grateful to those professionals speaking out against the current “system.” I had no idea, when I was dealing with apparently the underbelly of the Chicagoland medical community (doctors who miss medicate, then have a patient defamed and poisoned because they’re paranoid of a potential, but non-existant, malpractice suit due to a “bad fix” on a broken bone, and doctors who believe covering up medical evidence of child abuse is acceptable behavior, thus aid and abet in keeping child molesters on the streets raping more children) that the psychiatric industry as a whole had gone so astray. I didn’t even understand psychiatry’s belief system, since I hadn’t studied that in school. But now that I do understand it, I am amazed an entire industry could believe in it, it’s basically the opposite of how to actually help a distressed person. It’s an entire medical specialty that profits off of torturing the people who come in to them for help, while the psychiatrist discredits the patient and declares their real life problems to be “fictional.”

    Initially I’d thought it was just my doctors who were criminals, but I learned I was wrong. It was confessed to me by an ethical pastor that what I’d dealt with is known as “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.” Meaning that the psychiatric industry has always been in the business of covering up child abuse for the religions and easily recognized iatrogenesis for the incompetent and paranoid doctors.

    And what’s really sad is the medical evidence is now looking like the primary etiology of perhaps most or all so called ‘schizophrenia’ is possibly due to this “dirty little secret.” Since John Read’s research points out that two thirds of all ‘schizophrenia’ patients dealt with child abuse or ACEs, and child abuse victims are regularly being misdiagnosed as ‘psychotic.’ Then, of course, put on a neuroleptic. And the neuroleptics are known to cause both the negative and positive symptoms of ‘schizophrenia’ via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome and the central symptoms of anticholinergic intoxication syndrome (aka, I think, anticholinergic toxidrome). But, of course, psychiatrists deny these known adverse effects of the neuroleptics to their patients in practice.

    And no one yet, to my knowledge, has researched into what percentage of ‘schizophrenia’ patients had dealt with prior iatrogenesis. However, I would imagine (since my paranoid PCP projected her own paranoid delusions of a potential malpractice suit onto me and diagnosed me as a paranoid schizophrenic), it’s highly likely that the other third of ‘schizophrenia’ patients are likely people who’d dealt with prior easily recognized iatrogenesis, and an unethical doctor who was paranoid of a potential, legitimate malpractice suit.

    If we were to get rid of this “dirty little secret of the two original educated professions,” I bet we’d rid the world of almost all the ‘schizophrenia.’ Isn’t that actually supposed to be the psychiatric industry’s goal?

    • Sandy,

      I think you are a decent person who was deluded by your education, and is trying to do the right thing, but do think it’s important we discuss the actual historical reason for the existence of the psychiatric industry in general. Psychiatry’s job, historically and today, is about protecting the bankers currently in charge, and the religions always do whatever the bankers currently in charge recommend.

      When my father was an ethical American banker who was arguably the “number one MIS specialist in the country,” this country’s banking industry had ethics, and the common sense to know banks shouldn’t give out loans to those who can’t afford to repay them.

      Then the European bankers / the Federal Reserve bankers, took control of this country’s banking system and our government had the Democrats insanely claiming all people deserved home loans, and the Republicans deregulated the banking industry.

      These evil bankers, who are having sickos rape the grandchildren of the former ethical American banker’s families, then covering up this child abuse by seemingly taking over the religions, and having pastors participate in what I now know is “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions,” via psychiatric defamation and tranquilization of the formally ethical bank president’s children.

      I have no doubt your industry was deluded into believing your endeavors were for a benevolent purpose, but they never were historically, and they are not now. Please help educate other psychiatrists of the evil they are now working for.

  7. I suppose I can say, that I never bought into the idea, that psychiatry, presented, that Mental Health issues, were caused, by some sort of biophysical process in the brain.

    My experience goes back a very long time, and I have distrusted both the academic, approach to teaching psychotherapy, and the psychoanalytic method. Both seemed too head oriented to me.

    My graduate program centered on learning how to conduct psychotherapy.

    During my graduate school, I needed to work, to support myself, and the only paying internships that I found were drug treatment ones.

    There I treated, thousands of addicts, ran diversion groups, individual treatment for drug uses, on all kinds of drugs. It was my perception, that many involved in the field, seemed to think that treating addicts was not real therapy, and most didn’t even have a basic understanding of drug addiction. Many treated patients who were using lots of street drugs, but never even assessed their patients for drug addiction.

    So, when the biophysical model began putting people on psychiatric medication, I noticed right away that the same problems they were experiencing in treatment, were shared with drug users.

    There were others, who shared this same perception, but they were drowned out, by the rush to put everyone on these drugs.

    First of all, drugs are drugs, whether you call them psych meds, or drugs of abuse, they are the same fundamentally. They make insight difficult, connection impossible. and there is no pressure from symptoms driving a person to make changes.

    Because psych meds, don’t appear to be intoxicants, there is a belief that somehow, they work differently than street drugs. However this is not the case.

    For example, Tobacco, doesn’t seem to make a person intoxicated, and because of that, people are unaware of their lack of insight and self awareness, and inability to connect their feelings and their behaviors, in a feeling way. This profound lack of self awareness, is exactly what most psych medications do. And because they don’t appear to be intoxicants, then of course they seem to be ok to treat people.

    Thats why psych meds, are accepted, because they don’t appear to intoxicate. But once you understand that they share the same ability to blur insight and self awareness, with street drugs. you can understand how similar their action is to street drugs.

    Many psych meds, are also powerful intoxicants, and work by creating an intoxication, in which the patient doesn’t not have insight into the fact that they are high. Drugs like Xanax, seem ok to use because its prescribed by a psychiatrist, but they are more dangerous than Heroin. Because the user doesn’t have the insight to know how high they are.

    There are more prescription overdoses now, than street drugs, for this very reason.

  8. Excellent article – I wish all practitioners could assume your sense of humility and commitment to seeing the actual facts and results of our interventions. It is way too easy to believe our own perceptions and take credit for anything positive a client does, but blame failures on our clients.

    Interesting that you should bring up psychoanalysis in the context of “recovered memories.” I think a lot of people forget or never knew that psychoanalysis went off the rails early in Freud’s career. His original thesis was that “conversion reactions” or “hysteria” were caused by abuse, often sexual, by people known to his clients during their childhood. He drew his conclusion not from recovered memories, but in large part from people actually telling him what happened to them. He chose to believe them and published his early works on the “trauma theory” of mental/emotional distress. But his work was so severely criticized by his colleagues of the time, as no one wanted to believe or admit that sexual abuse was widespread in Victorian society, that he recanted this and came up with the concept that the children were somehow projecting sexual fantasies onto their parents, uncles, etc.

    Of course, we now know that childhood sexual abuse is extremely common in our society, and was most likely just as common back in Freud’s day, so his initial theory was right on target. It was society’s unwillingness to acknowledge the primacy of traumatic experiences in childhood that led to 100 years traveling down the wrong path, and once again, our current paradigm continues to make it easy to minimize or dismiss damage from social and cultural reasons and to blame the individual for the suffering s/he experiences. Of course, individual responsibility is critical to any path of healing, but so is the acknowledgement that we are all to a large extent the products of our upbringing and our times. Denying this reality really does prevent psychiatry from ever getting back on the right path again.

    Bottom line, everyone is different and everyone has their story. To deny a person the right to tell his/her own story from his/her own viewpoint will always be the biggest mistake we can make, whether it results from telling them that things happened to them which didn’t, or telling them that things didn’t happen to them that did, or worst of all, telling them that what happened to them isn’t even relevant to their current struggles, as so often happens to people entering the MH system today.

    —- Steve

  9. Many times I think what books and articles I could send to my old psychiatrist for him to hopefully read. Would he learn from this? I would want him to be better informed before he pulls out his prescription pad and writes mulitple scripts to new clients. I realize I was not the only client of his he overly prescribed to (he said he’d been wrong in his diagnosing /drugging me) but did this confession change his ways??

    My former psychiatrist had sales reps lined up in his hallway and his office was a pharmaceutical display of items with drug names on them. Even in my drug hazed mind it seemed too much. I left his office with my brown bag of drug samples too often. Got to wonder if my drug changes corresponded with a drug rep walking out of the door after presenting a new chemical to prescribe?

    • I do recommend you email good articles to your former psychiatrist to educate him. I did to my former psychiatrist, and he seemed to appreciate the emails, until I started to inform him about the problem of the psychiatric industry regularly covering up child abuse.

  10. I don’t agree with all these intellectual excuses for not holding the average psychiatrist responsible for what he or she does. The fact is, these doctors have a moral obligation to know what is happening to their patients, who are undergoing great suffering because of what is being done to them.

    For whatever reason, they choose to ignore this.

    As someone whose childhood was taken away by one of the leaders of her profession, who was shocked and raped and tortured at a young age by psychiatry, I find this attempt to make excuses for the behavior of psychiatrists really offensive.

    And I think this article epitomizes what is lacking in this magazine. There seems to be no sense of moral outrage among the psychiatrists who write for MIA.

    Mad In America is in many ways a helpful development for those of us who are trying to end the abuses of psychiatry. But the moral numbness of this article, and there are many like it, is less than helpful.

    One can talk about abstract psychological theories like cognitive dissonance all you want, but there is something that should be talked about much more urgently on these pages. And that is, the responsibility of psychiatrists to know the difference between right and wrong, and act accordingly.

    • ‘…The fact is, these doctors have a moral obligation to know what is happening to their patients, who are undergoing great suffering because of what is being done to them.

      For whatever reason, they choose to ignore this.

      As someone whose childhood was taken away by one of the leaders of her profession, who was shocked and raped and tortured at a young age by psychiatry, I find this attempt to make excuses for the behavior of psychiatrists really offensive. …’-

      I 2nd and have a lot of affinity for Ted’s (Chabasinski) statement here. (In my case, it was the 1st decade, at least, of my adult life that was taken from me). As Ted, and I’m sure many of ‘us’, I find the almost endless commentary attempting to explain psychiatric abuse/ fraud / misrepresentation/ coercion/ negligence/… -offensive, and a time wasting attempt at justification.

      I believe you should all condense your ramblings for the sake of ‘public consumption’, in an effort to really communicate to the public who need to become much more informed about the harm, fraud, abuse of health-rights-liberties, that psychiatry has been and is- rather than the assemblage of justification here.

      You may learn more, and benefit more, by observing the efforts and actions of the CCHR, and seeking common ground with more ‘ordinary’ (less academic) people like myself. – jim keiser, pg admin, Mental health/psychiatric watchdog & reform activity- https://www.facebook.com/jpkeis

    • Hi Ted,

      I just happened to listen to your impressive interview the other day

      http://drpeterbregginshow.podbean.com/e/the-dr-peter-breggin-hour-040815/

      I want to let you know that I agree with your post here even though I haven’t been harmed by psychiatry myself (I’m not a health care professional).

      Hello Sandra:

      I am not blaming you personally for anything, but I’m afraid that I read this

      “Concepts such as cognitive dissonance are not concepts that are applied by experts and used to undermine the credibility of one class of humans, but is a comment on the vulnerability of human thought in general. I am as vulnerable as anyone else. ”

      exactly as an attempt to evade even a label of “cognitive dissonance” for psychiatry much less actual responsibility for the harms done. I haven’t read Cosgrove & Whitaker’s new book yet, but, to me, the barest starting point of taking responsibility would be and acknowledgement and honest accounting of the harms that have been done, an acknowledgement and exposure of gross corruption, and taking immediate steps to prevent more people from being harmed in the future.

      – Saul

      • Example Saul-

        CHRONOLOGY OF PSYCHIATRY’S ROLE IN CREATING THE HOLOCAUST
        In November 2010, Dr. Frank Schneider, president of the German Association of Psychiatrists issued a public apology for psychiatry’s creation of the ideology that developed Nazi euthanasia and their role in the selection of those to be murdered as well as murdering others themselves.
        -German psychiatrists created the “racial hygiene” movement, which began with the work of eugenicist Alfred Ploetz in 1895. The idea stemmed from English psychologist Francis Galton who in 1883 coined the term “eugenics,” which he defined as “the science of improving the stock.”
        -Almost 40 years after Ploetz wrote The Fitness of Our Race and the Protection of the Weak, his theories gained supremacy with the passage of the 1933 Sterilization Act in Nazi Germany and the concept of “lives unworthy of living.”
        -This led to psychiatrists in Germany murdering tens of thousands of people that were “racially or mentally unfit,” long before the Holocaust began, and these same psychiatrists helped establish the killing centers during the Holocaust.
        Millions of people were killed during the Holocaust in Germany.

        Learn more. At this link is a chronology of these events caused by German psychiatrists:

        http://www.cchr.org/…/age-of-fe…/creating-the-holocaust.html

        http://www.cchr.org/documentaries/age-of-fear/creating-the-holocaust.html

  11. You say, Whitaker and Cosgrove’s [. . .] “convincing argument is that the actions of the institutions strayed towards the protections of the institutions and organizations at the cost of their stated mission . . .” It is the primary nature of bureaucracies to maintain themselves. Lenny Bruce observed that the highest human motivation is job security. Criticism is a threat to job security. He gave the example of The Lone Ranger who did people favors and left before they could say “Thank you.” The reason he left before they could say “Thank you.” was that if the world ever became a place where people said “Thank you.” when you did them a favor, he would be out of work. It is why bureaucracies silence criticism and prevent improvements to the practice of their mission. Job security.

  12. I agree with Ted . I would add for myself at least that even the so called real tiny few best psychiatrists that say they are weaning people off of med-drugs and actually listen to the people sometimes dragged in front of them leave me wondering how anyone could be so gutless as to literally go decades prescribing med-drugs and even electricity without having the human decency to demonstrate for even one of the people under there total power even once to put in their own mouths the “medicine” they want this poor soul to take in absolute compliance for the rest of what’s left of their life. The kindest thing I can say is they remind me of in the Charles Dickens novel “Tale of Two Cities” Marie Antoinette’s out of touch statement upon hearing the people had no bread to eat. She said as Queen of France in seriousness “Let them eat cake”.
    Today we have “Let them eat Neuroleptics” By the way I give people talk therapy after I’ve put them in altered states so they can best understand how I expect them to comply with my orders to them and the consequences for non compliance (which are constantly intensifying ) through no fault of my own. I’m only following orders after all I have 2 kids to send through college that have chosen to follow in my footsteps and become psychiatrists, lucrative field that it is and securely protected by the drug companies and /or the government(same same). One thing as sure as death and taxes , no matter what, you can’t take the arrogance out of a psychiatrist. And you can’t easily fool a survivor. Speaking about revolution with or without Madame Defarge ?

  13. I believe that all of us, no matter what role we hold in life or who we are, would do well to sit down at the end of each and every day and evaluate what we’ve done, why we did it, and what we hoped to accomplish by what we did. I believe it’s important to be as aware of our own motives and issues as is possible. Being self-aware is one of the most important things we can ever accomplish for ourselves.

    I often watch the psychiatrists who “treat” the people held in the state “hospital” where I work and I wonder how many of them strive to be self-aware, especially when it comes to their own behavior and treatment of people around them. I watch as they poly-drug people with cocktails created with drugs that adversely react with one another, creating havoc in the lives of the people forced to down the cocktails on a daily basis. When people have adverse reactions all these psychiatrist do is up the doses, stating that the adverse reactions are actually indications of how “mentally ill” these people truly are. Or they add another drug to the mixture without any regard as to what it will do mixed with all the others. It’s really a miracle that people don’t die from the “treatment” that they receive at the hands of these people. It’s drugs, drugs, and more drugs. And to be fair, these are the attitudes and the actions of not just the psychiatrists but the entire clinical staff. Decisions are made for people with no informed consent and the response when you ask about this is that “these peopl’e can’t make good decisions on their own so decisions must be made for them, all for their own good of course.

    I asked the question one day in a small meeting where there were upper administrative people present about why the psychiatrists on staff seem so unaware of all the real scientific studies that show that people are being harmed by the present “treatment” of drugs and shock. I asked why there was no talk about how Insel at NIMH distanced NIMH from DSM-5 or about his blog statement in 2013 that we need to look at how the neuroleptics are used since there is evidence that they’re harming people. I asked when it will be possible to begin asking the difficult questions that must be asked and was told point blank that the discussions cannot take place until a doctor stands up and asks the difficult questions!

    So, guess what? The questions will never be asked because the psychiatrists have too much to lose by allowing any open discussion at all concerning their disastrous “treatment” that they force onto people. I’ve approached the two whom I figure may be honest enough to admit the truth and it’s very obvious by their response that they want absolutely nothing to do with asking any questions or with admitting that what they do may actually be harmful to people.

    • Stephen,

      If I worked in your job, I would be fired and perhaps endure a worst fate because I would have such a hard time being civil in light of all that BS you have described.

      Your experience is why I think debating things on the evidence is hopeless as we could post scientific links or mention them until the cows come home and it wouldn’t matter. No one seems to give a damm.

      I think our best hope is to keep people from the system but how do to do that is another question. It just seems like once a person enters, they never leave.

      • I believe that you’re absolutely correct, debating things on evidence is useless because these people refuse to see anything that doesn’t go along with their ability to control peoples’ lives on a daily basis.

        The only way to keep people from the system is to provide alternatives to what the system offers but you can’t seem to get any grant money to set up alternative treatments.

        In the city where I live there is an organization created and run by individuals which offers wonderful alternative therapies in place of drugs. They do dance and movement, art and drama, writing and journaling, yoga and acupuncture, music and drumming, and traditional talk therapy.

        They’ve done so well in the year that they’ve been open that they have to look for a larger set of offices to take care of all the people showing up at their door. There is one huge catch to all of this though. Only the rich are able to afford their services and the prices they charge are beyond the means of most of the people I deal with on a daily basis. You’re not going to be able to take advantage of their services on SSI or SSDI or Social Security. The prices that they charge are fair in that they have a lot of staff who must be paid, but people like myself and those in the system cannot afford their services.

        Unfortunately, it’s the rare person who ever gets free from the tentacles of the system once they enter. Taking the toxic drugs pretty much assures that they’ll be chronic “patients” and all the talk that we peer workers do about healing and recovery is just pie in the sky uselessness because the people are trapped. You actually have to be able to think and function and make good decisions before you can begin recovering and healing and you have a very difficult time doing any of these things on those drugs.

  14. “But I suggest that we all need to monitor our own tendency for self-justification. Open, critical – respectful – discourse is of utmost importance because we need to rely on others to help us examine our own blind spots.”

    I agree so much with this statement and the spirit of your post. I admire how open and honest you are about your journey and agree that uncertainty makes intervention so incredibly tricky, and that mistakes are made by most of us (certainly by me) when we try to help people in distress. However, I do not think the type of discourse you speak of will or even can ever happen until ‘informed consent’ is prevalent in the field of psychiatry .

    I find the discussion of the treatment of psychosis to be a very present day example of cognitive dissonance among even many ethical psychiatrists. Here I am thinking of, among other things, the ‘conversations’ I have read on ‘1 boring old man’ about whether long term anti-psychotics are harmful or not. What seems to me to be missing in those types of conversations, is the “moral outrage” which Ted talks about in a previous comment. The idea that since there is even this ‘question’ as to whether or not these drugs are harmful, the fact that the current paradigm of care that does not fully inform patients and families, and does not provide viable options to medication, is very unethical. Although I am not suggesting that ethical psychiatrists created the current paradigm of care, I do believe that they are the group that have the most power to speak out against the system, and to lobby for a paradigm that includes viable alternatives of care for vulnerable people in extreme distress (e.g sanctuary type settings for those who choose that).

    I guess what I am saying, and this is definitely NOT directed at all at you, Sandra because I think you have suffered a lot on behalf of your clients, nor is it directed at any particular psychiatrist on MIA; but I do understand on an emotional level what Ted means when he writes ” There seems to be no sense of moral outrage among the psychiatrists who write for MIA.” It can be very, very hard for me to engage in discussions with any people who don’t believe that what happened to my loved one was a moral outrage that should have been prevented -( and my loved one received what was considered to be ‘top notch’ , current care (low dosages etc,)]

    Imagine the difference of the history of psychiatry if all those earlier treatments were only allowed to be given to adults with informed consent,. Also imagine the field of psychiatry today if informed consent was prevalent – I believe there would no longer be an ‘anti -psychiatry’ movement; and then psychiatrists could join other treatment providers in open, critical and respectful discourse about what their different background and experience and knowledge had to offer to particular clients.

    • ……I just wanted to clarify that there is a lot of ‘moral outrage’ on the 1 boring old man site about all sorts of psychiatric issues which I have really appreciated reading – it is only the topic of the current treatment of psychosis and the lack of evidence-based treatment and informed consent where I do not see this ‘moral outrage’

  15. Over time, recollections of more fantastic proportions were recalled – satanic cults and ritualistic abuse, for example

    I realize that this is well beside the main point of the article, but every time I see the “recovered memory” era dredged up to make a point I want to ask the following rhetorical question: How hard would it be for real-life pedophile rings to chant or wear robes (or any other bizarre flourish) when they perpetrate, so that their victims will never be believed if they tell?

    • I went through “treatment” during the privatization of psychiatric facilities. I was fourteen at the start. I am the only one of my own group of survivors that is still alive. Suicide and addiction was the cause of death, but I think we all know that both are heavily influenced by trauma, desperation, suffering, and no expectation of hope. You could argue causation, but surely years of institutionalization and psychiatry should have, if nothing else, offered them a glimmer of hope, right? It didn’t. In fact, the only people that don’t view psychiatry as a hopeful answer are those patients who have already experienced what psychiatry has to offer. It’s not a research study, but what does it say that about the benefit of a treatment that the patients would rather do anything, and I mean anything, other than utilize that treatment?

  16. There are no complications of memory especially when it comes to psychiatry , psychiatric torture is so intense it can not be forgotten . So we might as well warn the newer captives to escape before being captured . But how do you warn toddlers and babies in the womb . when the brainwashing and torture techniques of psychiatry as well as pseudo science are presented with such ridiculous posturing of calm certitude as if highly educated with real wisdom,when all we have here is a drug pusher ,behavior control with poisons and electricity , degradation of the human being,and forced transformation into a customer and degraded slave , for the life as long as cash can be extracted .Dumped on skid row otherwise. Nothing is forgotten and Nuremburg trials and the dust been of history is the fate of psychiatry and psychiatrists . Not even the guts to risk disbarment form this gestapo-like profession from hell and to demonstrate openly for it’s demise . Busy full time defending the necessity of crimes against humanity having become to big to fail. Not even the guts or humility to pool their ill gotten gains to finance a Soteria House instead wasting the loot on themselves.

  17. Interesting how Dr. Steingard mentions that she worked in a community mental health center but fails to mention that she worked at a psychiatric hospital that was found to have violated patient’s civil rights. The most egregious cognitive dissonance is when people practice involuntary “treatment”. Has Dr. Steingard blacked out those memories of involuntarily ‘treating’ patients? Or is that part of her life an influence on her current thinking?

  18. I think the paragraph below shows some of the attitudes that are making it hard for many psychiatrists to be helpful:

    “We need to act quickly and decisively. We need a template that we can trust and we need to rapidly build up trust in our own judgment. To use the framework of cognitive dissonance, it would be too uncomfortable – probably immobilizing- to acknowledge at every moment how much we do not know. So we do the best we can. The best among us, hold on to that uncertainty with grace….”

    These type of attitudes – which get expressed in many psychiatrists tricking themselves into believing they know what “illness” a person has, needing to decide what to “do” about the person’s problem right away, viewing oneself as the expert and the distressed person as the “patient”… these attitudes are antitherapeutic. They are antithetical to being with and listening to someone, to remaining open to the possibility that they know much more about their problems than you do, to understanding at a gut level that people truly are unique and DSM diagnoses are invalid.

    Then of course, many psychiatrists are stuck in hospital environments where they simply do not have the time, resource, or support to develop a healing relationship with a distressed person, even if they understood how to. A few days or weeks isn’t enough; but it is enough time for many psychiatrists to do what they do best: To give people a false diagnosis, to promote a pessimistic “life-long illness” way of conceptualizing emotional distress, and to prescribe brain-damaging medications that lock the person into a mentally ill patient role.

    • Good point. The decisive action psychiatrists take is to give everyone anti-psychotic drugs. And if a patient won’t take the poison the psychiatrist takes the patient to court and tells many lies to make the person look like a dangerous raving lunatic who obviously needs neuroleptics. Of course this backfires and the patients treated like this are traumatized and can have their lives ruined. But as long as they are full of mind numbing drugs that act as a chemical restraint the psychiatrists chalk it up as a victory. One more person helped.

  19. We continue to be extremely concerned about the aftermaths of trauma and child abuse and I understand that some people’s memories are discounted. But discounting memories is not the same as helping to create them. And acknowledging the faulty nature of memory is not the same as dismissing a person completely. Understanding what left the professions involved so vulnerable to this kind of problem is as important as understanding the impacts of the pharmaceutical industry on the practice of medicine.

    I beg to differ, Sandra. You are creating memories of abuse because almost all psychiatric interventions, no matter how mild, and most are not mild, but horrific, mimic the power differential of abuse. In your efforts to reconcile your cognitive dissonance, may I recommend ceasing to accept pay for ‘work’ that is unfortunately scientifically nonsensical and ethically indefensible.

  20. My father is a chemical engineer by education, but for 27 years he was employed as a media/safety/disaster management agent for ICI which became Zeneca which became AstraZeneca. Yes, that Astrazeneca. He dealt with OSHA, courts, media, government, and the long term effects of a company producing dangerous chemicals and less than ethical manners of disposal. I always thought of my father as ethical. A self made man, he was devoted to his job, careful of judgment, and wary of any behavior that might be biased or unjustified. This is the same man who buried the new neighbors dog when it was hit on the road because he didn’t want the child to see it there. However, when people become numbers they seem to lose both their humanity and their value. For example: I have heard so many people my age quibble about the number of deaths from the Holocaust. Just in my lifetime the number has gone from 10 million to 6 million and now to just over 4 million. What stays with me is the way Justice Jackson (who headed the prosecution) repeatedly told the court at Nuremberg that the numbers were clearly incorrect… a misprint… a misunderstanding. You see, they were still people then, and even with all the evidence before him, he was not able to imagine that level of lost life. Now, they are a number, and it’s about statistics, verification, causation, and the effect the number might have, but it’s still just a number without breath or suffering or hopes or fear. While I no longer think of my father as ethically absolute, I also believe that the majority of employees of pharmaceutical companies have made the same mistake, and by reducing human beings to cold, exact numbers, they have also become somewhat willfully ignorant. There are no names. No pictures. No humanity. Deaths become a percentage, permanent damage becomes a statistic, and they learn to let it go when they go home for the night. The one glaring problem I keep coming back to is simply this: I couldn’t do it. Perhaps it’s a result of a diagnosis or naivety or ignorance, but no matter how I try to present it, I could not do this. I could not even view it safely from the sidelines and do nothing. I can’t overcome the humanity I see pleading with me from those cold, dead equations.

  21. Hello Sandra. I guess that there is at least a spectrum between cognitive dissonance and a conspiracy of silence after all. My nominee for the most potentially CD psychiatrist is Dan Carlat

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128107547

    who is so incredibly clueless that he admits to everything but still expects to be admired for it. He admits to doing essentially nothing but prescribing drugs by matching symptoms with drugs in the DSM, he admits to lying to his patients about how the drugs work, he admits that 1/2 the “scientific” literature is ghostwritten, he admits to essentially being a paid Effexor salesman for a year (paraphrasing: Effexor looked pretty good at the time, according to the information he was given at the Effexor sales meeting). STILL, he thinks he’s a great guy who should be admired for helping his patients and everyone should buy his book.

    I think, B.T.W., that the anger at R.W. comes mainly from the conspiracy of silence crowd. The anger comes exactly from the fact that they know or suspect that Robert is right.

    I am also very much of the “fix the problem, not the blame” philosophy in general. It’s also worth remembering, I think, that what Robert and others have pointed out over the past few years took a lot of digging and is not at all obvious. Robert himself worked in this area for years before realizing that “chemical imbalance” was “just a metaphor”. Also, as Robert points out, clinical experience can easily fool you because clinicians mainly see those who are actively being treated and don’t realize that the untreated population is actually doing better. Oppositional tolerance can also lead you to believe that the drugs are working, if you’re not thinking about things carefully. I am also willing to believe that up till about 2010, the average MD did not appreciate the massive rampant corruption of academic psychiatry.

    – Saul

  22. I have been reading these comments with great interest, starting with Sandy’s blog. To a large degree, Lisa Cosgrove and I applied the framework of institutional corruption developed at the Safra Center to psychiatry, and part of that framework–whether “right” or not–is to look at the institution that has become corrupt, and then turn to cognitive dissonance theory to understand why the people in the institution don’t see the corruption that is so visible to those outside the institution.

    I am still mulling over what to do next; I think there is a very pressing need to confront this institutional corruption, for it is causing great social harm, as we wrote in the book.

    But I am indeed convinced that individual academic psychiatrists, who have been wooed and made into thought leaders, do not see themselves as corrupt. They see themselves, in many instances, as great “men” and women, pushing forward the “science” of psychiatry. Look at Lieberman’s book; that is how he sees himself and his fellow biological psychiatrists.

    What I can’t get straight in my own mind is how investigators in NIMH-funded trials will spin the results, hide bad results, and otherwise cook the results, which is what they did with the STAR*D study, and yet keep up their self image as “scientists.” How do they not see themselves as corrupt in those moments?

    But here is the thing; I don’t think they do. They don’t see themselves as corrupt. And the point of an exploration of cognitive dissonance theory isn’t to absolve individuals of blame, but rather to prepare for a discussion of solutions: Can you expect those within the institution to recognize the corruption and reform the institution? CDT tells you not to expect that to happen, and thus, you have to look for outsiders (e.g. the public) to provide a remedy.

    But wonderful discussion for me to read.

    • To Bob, Sandra, and Saul

      I am not so sure about CDT as an explanation for this phenomena, but certainly history tells us that fundamental change will have to mainly come from outside institutions that are functioning as an overall oppressive force in the world.

      Bush, Rumsfeld et all in the U.S. government, who launched the Iraq war that killed hundreds of thousands of people, still believe to this day that they were acting honorably and doing what was best for their country (and the world) at the time.

      There are many philosophical, ideological, and political forms of thinking that comprise the totality of their overall class outlook and the elitism of their personal self interest. Carefully examining those belief systems (including extreme forms of American Exceptionalism and its related world mission) helps explain their actions and their self justification against any form of critical appraisal.

      Challenging the scientific and moral legitimacy of psychiatry (including those who define themselves as abolitionists) and saying that it causes far more harm than good, is what really gets people’s FULL attention and FORCES them to more fully examine their historical role in the present day world. Initial defensiveness and more narrow self interest often holds people back from completing a thorough going evaluation of the social role of the institutions they have so much invested in.

      I discovered Breggin in 1991 just as I started work for a Masters Degree in counseling psychology. As a psychiatrist Breggin was doing great scientific and moral exposure (an unflinching one at that) of the role of modern psychiatry in the world at that time. Whitaker” book (Anatomy…) came on the scene at a more opportune time after there had been a significant enough accumulation of damaging experience with Biological Psychiatry that it was able to capture far more attention.

      More scientific and political exposure (shining the light on) Biological Psychiatry will be important in the coming period, but it will take FAR MORE decisive political struggle from the OUTSIDE (including challenging all the institutions that created and benefit from modern psychiatry) to ultimately end all forms of psychiatric abuse.

      And one does NOT have to be a psychiatric survivor (Sandra, you did not yet respond to my above comment about indirect learning) in order to more fully commit to such a moral and political mission.

      Richard

      • Richard,

        If America is as horrible as you continuously describe, why do so many people literally risk their lives to get here illegally? And why do so many go through the lengthy and exhausting process to become citizens?

        Interesting that you mention Dr. Peter Breggin – someone who has disdain for conventional psychiatry, yet who loves this country… Two traits I share (although, I’m no Breggin).

        I truly don’t understand why anyone who hates this country would choose to live here. Are there not dozens of other countries to choose from?…

        Duane

        • To clarify – this is in reference to the notion that a handful of men in Anerica were somehow able to start a war (ignoring the bipartisan Congrssional decision that took place after long, heated debate); your disparaging remark about America exceptionalism (discounting the Constitution and freedoms this country has)… but mostly, my comment is made after reading your bashing if this country for *years* on this site…. There appears to be no end to the level of hate…

          Duane

        • Duane

          It does not take rocket science to know why people from poor Third World countries want to come to the richest country in the world.

          The key question is – how did America accumulate all of its wealth? Are Americans more intelligent and hard working and/or genetically superior to the rest of the world?

          OR could it just perhaps be that America is an economic and military endowed empire that has dominated ands exploited Third World countries (their labor power and valuable natural resources) to obtain its number one position in the world hierarchy?

          Peter Breggin, as well as you Duane, have a dual character to your overall political outlook. I am not afraid to acknowledge Breggin’s major contributions to our movement or point out when you are right on target with your criticisms of Biological Psychiatry, nor am I afraid to criticize you or Breggin when your political compass goes far astray.

          I choose to live in the country where I have the best understanding and ability to make change in the world. What is wrong with that?

          And Duane, do you want to NOW defend those political decisions that (I am quite confident that you supported at the time) that led to the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives?

          Richard

          • Richard,

            Contrary to the popular belief of many on the far left, this country is slow to go to war. The U.S. was even hesitant to get involved in both WWI and WWII. The invasion of Iraq was no exeption… Again, there was a healthy and heated debate, which ended in a consensus to invade.

            I don’t appreciate revisionist history… I prefer to look at the facts of the past. In the case of Iraq, there were many on both sides of the political aisle who made the decision to invade.

            I think it’s fair to say that the testimony from General Colin Powell to the U.N. Security Council was the persuading argument that led many to their decision. Some were convinced of WMD before his U.N. testimony, based on intelligence they had received before:

            “Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. A deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.”
            — Sen. John F. Kerry, Oct. 9, 2002

            “We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.” — Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

            “The community of nations may see more and more of the very kind of threat Iraq poses now: a rogue state with weapons of mass destruction, ready to use them or provide them to terrorists.”
            — President Bill Clinton, 1998

            “In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program… ” — Sen. Hillary Clinton, Oct 10, 2002

            And what about Colin Powell’s testimony?..

            It turns out he was correct. Weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, as reported by the New York Times last summer:
            http://www.thepoliticalinsider.com/bombshell-new-york-times-reports-wmds-found-iraq/

            As far as Iraqi civilian casualties, I think that all life is sacred. Unfortunately, war is horrible but sometimes necessary, and sadly it often results in the death of innocent people. Which is why I think our country is slow to go to war.

            Duane

          • Contrary to the popular belief of many on the far left, this country is slow to go to war. […] The invasion of Iraq was no exeption… Again, there was a healthy and heated debate, which ended in a consensus to invade.

            Is this Opposite Day?

        • Although this seems like a loaded questions, I’ll be candid: We didn’t choose or rather, I didn’t. I was born here and quickly realized that supporting a life here coupled with the fact that no other country actually wants us makes leaving difficult. Now, I agree that following September 11th, a show of force was necessary. I do think a handful of men have kept that war going, and a bipartisan Congressional decision doesn’t mean anything. When everyone is getting paid, it doesn’t matter what side you debate. As for American exceptionalism, that is just part of the American myth. We stopped being exceptional years ago. Check the statistics.. we lead in imports into this country, incarcerated persons, and weapon spending. That’s it. We redefine freedom as we see fit, when the truth is… if we are all free, why am i not as free as you? The Bill of Rights was a last effort to impress upon this country’s history those things that the people held most sacred. But any lawyer will tell you that a contract is simply too insubstantial to protect something as weighty as the rights of a country. And what you call hatred, that is freedom. One of the few I can enjoy.
          Justice Holmes said,
          While that experiment is part of our system, I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country.

          It isn’t hatred of a country to condemn the corrupt men and women behind the curtain. In fact, it’s exactly why we aren’t currently flying a British flag, but why should I settle for being a political scapegoat with the least number of rights and protections of any group of citizens in this country? It isn’t America bashing to want to leave this nation a better place for my children.

          • I’m not so sure it’s about ‘defending’ freedom, as much as it is about discovering it and practicing it. Like everything else, in the end, freedom is a belief which becomes a state of being, not something to be granted by others.

            We do disagree, here, because personally, I think freedom is acquired by each individual for themselves, and from these examples, the ownership of freedom ripples outward, to those who are ready to claim theirs.

          • Plus, ‘fighting for freedom’ is an oxymoron. If you are fighting, then you are not free. The moment you stop fighting and come into present time, and connect with your creative path and process, then you are free because you discover that you are an unlimitedly creative being. From there, you can create all sorts of wonderful things that will help uplift the world out of suffering, which is the point, isn’t it? To end suffering?

            You will not get that you are unlimitedly creative–and free– as long as you are ‘fighting for freedom.’ That’s like creating war in the name of peace. Makes no sense.

          • Alex,

            There is a time and place for everything, including a time to fight.

            Freedom is not free. It never has been, and never will be.

            Witness ISIS… Do you suggest the world sit quietly by?…

            Duane

          • Of course not, I’m not suggesting complacency. I’m suggesting being clever and creative, considering broader perspectives of these issues in order to take actions not considered before. Leaps of faith, trusting the universe, calm and focus during chaos, present time awareness–all good principles to remember right now, I feel. Change is happening and core changes in society are inevitable. We’re already at the brink and oppression is being called out in many societies.

            I think that, collectively, we’ve called in radical change and at this point, I’d say we’re here to witness it now, but not passively. Staying focused and aware of these changes and how they are affecting and guiding each of us allows us to help it along as opportunities for us to do so arise. These come up from day to day, when we’re paying attention.

            Certainly, some people still feel the need to fight, which I understand, there’s a lot of power in that. Still, I say that freedom comes when one has completed with their need to fight, and finding peace becomes the priority. That changes one’s perception because the intention has shifted, so different actions are taken, which I believe are more powerful than fighting, and which lead to a lot of vital creativity. We need this to create a new society, away from this perpetual suffering due to a mad society.

            But I do respect individual choices, these are very personal, not to be judged but respected. Everyone has a different role in the social revolution, depending on each person’s focus and personal issues. That’s how the collective will bring in change and thrive, I feel.

    • What you observe about the scientists is exactly what I also observe about all the psychiatrists who work in the hospital where I am employed. I truly believe that they know, without a doubt, that the drugs are harmful to people in the long run, but they look away and refuse to acknowledge the big elephant that sits smack dab in the middle of the room. And if you dare question anything about the so-called “treatment” they spit and snarl and scream bloody murder and make the person asking the questions look as badly as they can. However, I agree with you about the fact that I don’t believe that any of these people see themselves as bad people or people who are doing harm to others. It’s pretty amazing to me as I sit and watch it all play out.

    • My father was a chemical engineer/media figure/OSHA go between for astra zeneca for 27 years. I used to think he was ethically beyond reproach. Now, I realize that people just became numbers and side effects became statistics, and when you can reduce the overall mortality rate to a percentage, it’s a lot easier than knowing their names and favorite colors. Sanism is also a rampant problem, most noticeably in the justice system, but you can see it in the general public in their sheer lack of concern. Five people are killed by one shooter, and they are perfectly willing to sacrifice a few million people to the same system Geraldo Rivera showed them not to long ago on the seven o’clock news. Even then, they compared it to the holocaust repeatedly, but it still took another fifteen years to close it. People believe, if you got there, you deserve to be there. An insanity plea is more likely to get you a harshest sentence than to be accepted as a legal excuse even if you are found incompetent to stand, you can just be medicated for a month, and then, be found guilty.

  23. There is a lot of criticism of this site, and some of the writing here. For example, by Emil Karlsson: http://debunkingdenialism.com/2014/11/23/scientific-american-publishes-anti-psychiatry-nonsense/

    I see hardly any responses to such criticism. I read both sides of the debate to be more clear, and not get totally carried away.

    If all your work is characterised as pseudoscientific nonsense, the site will lose its purpose and credibility (which I think is already somewhat damaged).

    • Really, the criticism the last commenter cites has no intellectual substance. It just repeats the psychiatric party line, with no analysis of the criticisms made by people who are skeptical of psychiatry.

      I am an attorney, and I can say that this is analogous to a criminal defendant, confronted by a lot of evidence pointing to his guilt, responding by saying that he is an expert on his behavior and therefore the charges against him have no merit.

      This would not work in a trial, but right now, unfortunately, all psychiatrists have to do to be taken seriously is spout the same kind of nonsense. Their defense is that “what we say is true because we say so.” And that often works for them, at least for now.

      Part of the reason it works, though, is that some of psychiatry’s critics (and I am grateful for their work) somehow fall into the trap of dealing with psychiatry’s abuses as if they were fascinating intellectual issues being discussed in some seminar at Harvard. This may interest those who like such seminars, but such people are generally rather morally numb, and they are not going to take any risks or speak out to change anything.

      Much of what psychiatry does, such as drugging foster children at an early age and ruining their lives, are not interesting intellectual questions. They are crimes against humanity, but until the public (the only force with the power to effect change) sees these atrocities that way, they are not going to take action. That is my major problem with the approach of saying that psychiatrists have no moral responsibility.

      If they have no moral responsibility, then that whole concept has no meaning. The logical end of that position is that we should do away with all laws against crimes, as after all criminals don’t really understand that what they are doing is wrong.

      Of course, that is nonsense. and so is the idea that psychiatrists don’t really understand what they are doing. Given the immense amount of suffering they inflict on other human beings, it defies common sense to say that they have no moral culpability.

      It is bad enough that psychiatrists are never prosecuted for their crimes, even when they are very obvious. Of course, this is true for many criminals who are wealthy and powerful. But people who are critical of psychiatry should not be doing what in a way is the same thing, absolving these doctors from their moral responsibility.

      Nothing is going to change until the public understands the true ethical nature of psychiatry.

  24. Ted,

    Your style of debating isn’t going to do much irrespective of how much pain you’ve been through or how much pain others (and myself) are going through. I know your story. You think I don’t have a story too? That I’ve not been through horrible things?

    We’re “disgruntled patients” as some critics put it. What people need to do is gather evidence to support their claims. Take a video recorder, or an audio recorder next time you go to a psychiatrist. Take the experiences of many people.

    I notice some people who are into psychiatry (as patients) have this sucking up to psychiatrists mentality possibly out of fear.

    The thing is, I take psychotropic drugs, and I have one reasonable psychiatrist. But I am quite vocal about my feelings regarding things. Not everyone would be able to get away by doing that though.

  25. I wonder if there are also studies on people who’ve been through the psychiatric system. What do they say? Were they helped? Were they harmed? Was it useless? Blog posts won’t do much. Also, simply having studies where a person’s depression score on some rating scale improved after taking so and so drug is hardly going to tell you anything about the patients in that study.

    • I totally accept that you too have had bad experiences with psychiatry. I also certainly agree that just arguing in generalities won’t get very far without facts to back it up.

      But my arguments here are for the readers of MIA, who already know the facts. For the general public, I would cite a lot of facts.

      I think you may have misunderstood my comments a bit as well. When I said the arguments you cited had no intellectual substance, I didn’t mean YOUR arguments.

      I just don’t see how we can solve the problem of the massive abuse of people by psychiatry without holding the people responsible who commit these atrocities. Just as with the corrupt bankers who wrecked out economy, who were then appointed as financial advisors to the government after being bailed out, a few well-deserved prison sentences would work wonders. In that context, what the country of Iceland did s very instructive. And in the context of our human rights movement, jailing the criminals who do these things would work quite well to stop this kind of behavior in the future. But that won’t happen if we put our heads in the sand and pretend that somehow, no one had any moral or criminal responsibility.

      • Ted,

        I understood that your comment regarding the arguments wasn’t directed at me.

        Also, the thing is, not everyone feels that they’ve been harmed by psychiatry. Individual bad experiences will be treated as just that. Individual bad experiences.

        It will take a lot more to demonstrate harm. The harm comes in many ways. Iatrogenic drug reactions, stigma due to labelling, improper/incomplete information given by psychiatrists to patients, the power imbalance between psychiatrists/patient’s families and the patients themselves, psychiatrists on TV shows explaining things in terms of biology (X drug, Y drug, this brain imaging, that brain imaging) with hardly any emphasis on the problems in living that people face (Charlie Rose’s Brain series comes to mind), people misusing psychiatric labels and using the insanity card in deceitful ways, stereotypes of people with X or Y label etc. Some of this is direct harm, and some of it is indirect harm. In either case, psychiatrists should be doing more to address these issues.

        But who’s up to doing studies on the social aspects of psychiatry? Who will look at it as an outsider? Is there a good large scale investigation of this phenomenon?

        People on MIA can get extreme and that’s understandable given the things they’ve been through. But they’re marginalised as extremist disgruntled patients. Who’s going to take them seriously? A few psychiatrists on MIA? It’s a start, but it hardly does much really.

  26. Hi there Registered. I think it is very important to keep in mind, when analyzing arguments, who the audience is. I am addressing myself to the psych survivors and other activists and critics of psychiatry who read MIA. I am not citing specific problems with psychiatry, as actually there are many other commenters and authors on MIA who do a good job of that.

    I am getting a bit impatient with you, so I make this challenge to you: if you believe you know how the abuses of psychiatry should be fought and what arguments should be made, you should make those arguments and fight those fights. I will support you if I like what you say and do.

    But I don’t think it is helpful to stand on the sidelines and criticize people who are actually trying to do something. My motto is “don’t theorize, organize.” I wish you good luck in your efforts.

  27. Sandy writes, ” …I worry about alienating peoole who I have come to consider as allies… I find myself holding back on criticisms of people I like or know more than on people who stand in as more distant icons. It is easier to write a sentence critical of Jeffrey Lieberman than of my friends and closer allies.”

    I would like to think I would not be concerned with holding back a criticism of someone I “liked” or “knew” if they were doing something that causes terrible harm. I wonder how many people “liked” or “knew” Hitler and felt disinclined to criticize or alienate him bc they were “friends” or “allies”? Did this silence benefit anyone but Hitler and the Nazis?

    Is “cognitive dissonance” at play when David Healy, who speaks out against Big Pharma and is passionate about informing and educating people of the dangers of psychiatric drugs that can be implicated in suicides, homicides, violence, and physical infirmity, but continues to support and advocate the use of ECT, a human rights violation which is the equivalent of an electrical lobotomy? Is there cognitive dissonance in his willingness to believe and acknowledge the testimonies of victims of psychiatric drugs, pointing out the flaws and corruption of scientific studies and trials which hide or misrepresent the truth, while disparaging or discounting the testimonies of ECT victims and ignoring the scientific research that clearly and definitively shows ECT causes brain damage, in addition to traumatizing and diminishing its victims who are usually older women?

    How is it that this site continues to ignore the multitude of requests to have Healy defend and clarify his position? Is he endangering people who respect his opinions and decide to have ECT on the basis of his claims of safety and efficacy and his contribution to the pro-shock book written by himself and Edward Shorter?
    Should people be tiptoeing around the reality that this individual is in favor of a procedure that is a human rights violation and an instrument of torture? Is this “enabling” behavior which means looking the other way and praising the “good work” he does while ignoring the bad?

    Healy’s name is on a book where Shorter asserts that “ECT is the penicillin of psychiatry ” and “the notion that ECT causes long-term and devastating memory losses in children (and adults) is an ‘urban myth'”.
    Does anyone see how this is a problem?

    I agree with Ted, who states:” I don’t agree with all these intellectual excuses for not holding individual psychiatrists responsible for what he or she does. The fact is these doctors have a moral obligation to know what is happening to their patients, who are undergoing great suffering because of what is being done to them.” He also says “there seems to be no sense of moral outrage among the psychiatrists who write for MIA” and that what should be “urgently talked about in MIA is the “responsibility of psychiatrists to know the difference between right and wrong and to act accordingly.”

    I have seen numerous gifted writers on MIA express moral outrage about the damaging actions of psychiatrists and institutions and their failure to take responsibility and admit the harms they have caused.

  28. Hi everyone,

    I went to my dentist today and the two receptionists both happened to notice that I was carrying a book with “Psychiatry” in the title (it was Robert & Lisa’s book). They both were eager to talk about it. One of the receptionists, it turns out, has taught college level neuroscience in Boston, Ohio and in Australia. She was very interested and told me that that she was shocked to find that every single one of her 18 undergraduate students in Ohio was taking some serious psychotropic drug and had been doing so for years while none of her students in Boston were on drugs like that. She said that one of the Ohio students was taking valium every day and would get shaky before taking it. Both receptionists already knew that something is very wrong on a very large scale. Both were very interested in the book and wrote down the title and authors. I was pretty encouraged and took it as another sign that people really aren’t buying it anymore and major changes are possible.

    I’m still having a hard time really believing CDT, but that’s not bothering me much, since I agree with the conclusion that APA and Academic Psychiatry is unlikely to reform itself anyway, and that’s probably the main practical point. I’m new, and an outsider, and still a bit shocked at how bad it is, but I’m going to think about this some more and read the “initiatives” part of the site more carefully. One thing that occurs to me is that even though the story told in Robert & Lisa’s book is horrifying, the story also does have heroes, and celebrating individual heroes might be an important positive step to take. I’m not the right person to name who the heroes are, but I’m talking about people who have pointed out the truth for many years and people who have done the very hard work of uncovering and revealing the corruption and fraudulent science. If, for instance, following in Peter Gotzsche’s footsteps becomes a respected and practical career path, that could make a huge difference in itself.

    – Saul

  29. The biggest mistake could be that we underestimate the cold blooded ruthlessness of the psych-pharma -government complex plus friends like Monsanto and its determination to totally control the population. With robber barons in charge.
    If the thought leaders are saying what they believe , like more new progress in biological psychiatry is ahead then they are actually telling us as Hitler did in Mein Kampf what they intend to do . That the continuing use of pseudo science as a primary tool is not to be given up and that they are fully capable and prepared to spin all the eventual growing brain damage (some of which they will show us with shots of MRI pictures that their “drugs” (Time release poisons is probably a better description and electricity cause ), spinning it as really being caused by mental illness thus justifying further draconian measures applied to more and more of the population gaining compliance by using more coercion in the name of community health care . I believe this is what they are up to as evidenced by their response to what the real science is showing us . I certainly believe that at the top they know exactly what they are doing and that much of the rank and file know something is deadly wrong and not working but they have to make their payments on their 2nd home away somewhere safe. Further more the medical profession the AMA and dental profession are not anywhere as above board as they would like us to believe but which the majority of people have faith in. Truth must be spread efficiently to have an impact on the population . When the purveyors of pseudo science control the mainstream media it is the challenge we face to effectively enough communicate the truth to where the people can understand it. How to solve the problems we face ?

  30. I think this is a very important discussion in many ways. However, we all seem to drift off into our own life informed tangents which ultimately doesn’t help further the discussion to a good and strong conclusion. We need to discuss the ultimate now what question.
    So Sandra and others in the psychiatric field and other of the so called helping professions are beginning to acknowledge Robert’s and other works which show there were ethical and problematic treatment protocols with the use of proscribed pharmaceuticals.
    It seems though Sandra and other psychiatrists and other helping professionals are not willing or unable at this point to state that all medication is a bad thing. I think even in some of Robert”s works and others and some autobiographical writings of some folks who use meds there is a strong belief that the meds have helped them.But many of those writings do acknowledge the issue of bad side effects – many just have decided for them they are worth the trouble and the risk.
    Then there are those of us who have found out the meds were not worth the trouble or the risk. Informed consent is also at issue here.
    Then on the other side of this multi-layered conversation is the whole issue of treatment both outside and inside a psych unit.Many folks were traumatized by this and especially in the units. There has been no good feedback from psychiatric professionals on this aspect of the psych survivors stories. This is were traumatized folks were further traumatized. And if one reads the work on trauma – victims seldom are able to talk during or right after the abuse and then there is a whole cycle of work that must be worked through such as revenge and anger issues.See Judith Herman ‘s “”Trauma and Recovery” There are few places currently other than this site and some others and widely spread-out groups of community psych survivors that allow us the freedom to share our stories messy and at times confusing as they are. At this point the helping professions have really not done anything with not only hearing our stories but offering any type of validation or apology. I have never heard a helping professional say to me I will never understand completely what you have suffered but I am willing to listen not only to parts but to the whole trauma you endured.I can’t change your story but together we can make sure the stories of horrors on the psych unit will end.
    This simple statement makes a world of difference. And maybe helping professions and psych survivors need to gather together and listen. My guess is that the helping professions individually have been traumatized as well. I know I was. Again Herman and Van der Kerk address this issue. The issue so many people don’t want to even begin addressing.
    So thanks Sandra for the beginning. Let’s hope one day we can actually go beyond divisions and just make trauma a focus for our country instead of hiding behind walls of fear.

  31. Yes I also see that the helping professions have been traumatized. Yes mainly by receiving pseudo mainstream educations ,degrees, and titles, from universities funded and the curriculum pre approved by the robber barons with the money stolen from the population. Yes an education allowed to serve the powerful’s interest without the time to ask the serious questions that needed to be asked . And anyways what exactly is such an education for those that have no moral code. Is it not more dangerous then a loaded weapon when used on the innocent to make a living ? Of course there is a minority that can turn there experience in universities to something which really attempts to help humanity like Robert Whitaker and yet he has much to learn as do we all. But the children the young now early force drugged before their brains are fully developed are at the point of the spear and what will happen to them as we all traumatized are unable to move together decisively to save the children let alone all the others or even ourselves as much as we cannot yet find within our collective skulls real solutions instead of coping rationalizations. Or are we contained and has this huge wave gained so much momentum that its every person for themselves with the psychiatrists and most of the medical professions crying for the far most part “I Love Big Brother”. Instead of helping those that need to get free. We must help ourselves and each other with shared info and natural methods , we can’t wait for studies devised by the powerful , better the lived experience of our peers. Those that want to stay on meds or drugs , there are always those ready to supply them. Some of us want free of it and there are peers that have become relatively free to be learned from . I’m sure many have died trying by going too fast without enough help . We must make ourselves available to at least inform those that ask us for help . Hopefully they have the courage to do so but it is hard when your income depends on you remaining in the status quo . But you can pretend to authorities to be complying while you live and plan your great escape to freedom if you choose .